Chris Rose, a Scholarship Foundation voter engagement fellow and an Ava’s Grace scholar, is an “open book” and he has a lot to say about turning his personal circumstances into opportunities to connect with others. At 21 years of age, Chris is eager to travel, learn, and make meaning of all that he has experienced.
For the first decade of his life, Chris witnessed his teenage parents struggling with balancing the pressures of life while parenting. Neither of Chris’ parents finished high school. His father was incarcerated. At ten years old, Chris moved to St. Louis to live with his grandmother.
It was his grandmother who got him into football, which led to basketball, Chris’ first passion and a place where he could work hard and find friends who would feel like family for years to come. He found a strong role model in his coach and appreciated the hard work and dedication he expected of players. “He just really wanted us to be great.” Chris also credits his middle school math teacher for being a person with whom he could connect. “She really was the first person who preached to me that it’s OK to be smart and it’s OK to stand out.”
Chris’ achievement in basketball led him to a scholarship to study at Fontbonne University, but Covid-19 kept his team off the court his entire freshman year. Like many students during that difficult time, depression and isolation set in for Chris, leading to his need to step away from college and explore other options for his transition into adulthood. After a year away, Chris returned to Fontbonne post-pandemic and landed a spot in The Scholarship Foundation’s biggest advocacy fellowship cohort yet. He is now thriving as a voter engagement fellow and marketing major. He is making plans to study abroad before finishing his undergraduate degree, hoping to learn all he can about international marketing and consulting.
As a Voter Engagement policy fellow, Chris is working with his cohort on important issues facing young people today. “The main goal of my life is to make other people’s existences easier, and I want to help kids. I want to be the person who I needed when I was a kid.” Chris says he looks forward to Saturdays, the days when the policy fellows meet to do their work, and says, “I’m glad to have more opportunities to do policy work like this to actually make a difference.”
Director of Advocacy, Karina Arango, has witnessed Chris’ growth since he joined the program last fall. She writes, “Chris is a perceptive, sharp, and committed leader. His ability to energize his peers, serve honestly, and spark curiosity has only strengthened the fellows. He’s an active and outgoing presence in the fellowship with a great sense of humor. Chris understands first-hand what it feels like to be a student in today’s world, and he is clear and honest about his experience. With each challenge presented to him, Chris shows up and shows out. On his first trip to Jefferson City, Chris jumped right in and asked questions to learn more about his role. Chris is not afraid to make mistakes and is powerful in the way he shows up, each and every time.”